For No. 5 Arundel's final regular-season game, the Wildcats faced perhaps the toughest team they've seen all season in Riverdale Baptist, The Washington Post's No. 1 girls basketball team.
The Wildcats (18-4) were within seven points early in the fourth quarter last night before the Crusaders (22-2) pulled away for a 65-46 victory at Arundel.
Sisters Tianna and Tierra Hawkins proved too tough an inside combination for the Wildcats as 6-foot-3 Tianna had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and 6-foot-1 Tierra had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Arundel forward Sheronne Vails, 6 feet 4, did her best against the duo, with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven steals. Ebonee Jones helped out with six points and nine rebounds. But the Wildcats sure could have used 6-foot-3 Simone Egwu, who was on the bench as a precaution after suffering a mild concussion in Friday night's game.
"When we play private schools, it's on a different level," Vails said, "so it kind of prepares us for what we're going to meet later down the road."
The Crusaders ran their lead to 46-28 with 5:09 left in the third quarter before Vails led the comeback with nine points in a 16-3 run that brought Arundel within 49-42 with 6:58 left in the game. Tierra Hawkins then scored six in a 10-0 Crusaders run that put the game out of reach.
The Wildcats play Old Mill at 7 tonight in the Anne Arundel County championship at Annapolis, where Arundel coach Lee Rogers will be going for his 400th career win.
The Fallston girls and Aberdeen boys didn't have much trouble repeating as the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference champions last night.
No. 11 Fallston was too fast for North East-Cecil, breaking the game open with a 27-point second-half run en route to a 61-30 victory. It was the Cougars' fifth straight conference title.
On the boys' side, No. 13 Aberdeen fought off late rallies from Havre de Grace before pulling away for a 66-52 victory and the team's sixth straight UCBAC championship.
Fallston (23-0) dominated play early, forcing nine first-quarter turnovers and taking a 20-8 lead. But North East (15-8) crept back and cut the deficit to nine late in the second period, thanks mostly to a number of Cougars turnovers.
The second half was a different story. Fallston brought more defensive pressure and took advantage when North East coach Alan Foskey pulled his starting five midway through the third quarter. That helped the Cougars force nine turnovers in the period, which sparked the 27-point run and a 61-22 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Jess Harlee and Rachel Holehouse led the Cougars with 19 points apiece as Fallston used its size advantage to keep the Indians out of the lane - North East didn't shoot a free throw the entire game.
"That was a big third quarter," Fallston coach Mike McTeague said. "We were well aware that they had four games in five days [last week] ... and we wanted to keep the pace fast."
Aberdeen (17-4) never trailed. Horace Jackson (23 points) and Devon Saddler (16) helped the Eagles take a 16-4 first-quarter lead and pull ahead by 14 at the break.
But Havre de Grace (18-5) kept coming back. Trevon Hawkins (20 points) hit a three-pointer that cut the lead to 53-45 with 5:32 left. Akeem Ahmed then made a three-pointer and another jump shot. Jackson added consecutive jumpers to stretch the lead to 15.
"I'm happy with the way we responded," Aberdeen coach Richard Hart said.